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Challenges to termination of parental rights are forfeited or meritless

Iron County DHS v. N.H.-D., 2019AP1520, District 3, 2/12/20 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

N.H.-D.’s claims that the termination of her parental rights violated various due process rights, but those claims are forfeited and undeveloped. Her claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel is meritless. 

N.H.-D. makes three claims that her due process rights were violated, but she didn’t raise these objections during trial, didn’t raise trial counsel’s failure to object as part of an ineffective assistance claim she brought, and doesn’t explain whether they involve procedural or substantive due process claims. Thus, the court refuses to address the claims because they are forfeited and undeveloped. (¶¶8-16).

The ineffective assistance claim N.H.-D. raises is that trial counsel failed to object to what she calls a pervasive attack on her character at the grounds trial. The court of appeals finds trial counsel’s conduct was not deficient because much of the information was relevant to the grounds for termination (whether N.H.-D. would meet the conditions for return of her child under a CHIPS order), so any objection would have been meritless. Moreover, the evidence N.H.-D. complains about wasn’t prejudicial given the substantial evidence supporting termination elicited during the three-day trial. (¶¶17-26).


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